Europe > England > London > History of London

A History of London in 100 Places

Humans have lived in the London area since the Palaeolithic. Many millennia later the Romans created Londinium, a settlement restricted to the area now known as ‘the City’. Over the centuries since, urbanisation and migration have transformed the city into today’s Greater London, a truly cosmopolitan county of eight million people and rising. Witness this history for yourself today at these 100 key sites.

Prehistory

Stone tools and weapons on display in the Museum of London.

A collection of tools, weapons and ornaments made out of stone, from various prehistoric periods between 450,000 years ago to 50 AD, on display in the Museum of London.

Stone Age

The earliest known humans in southern Britain arrived around half a million years ago, at which point a land bridge still connected it to mainland Europe. This era, the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age, covered a vast timespan, from around 700,000 years ago to 11,000 years ago. It saw dramatic changes in climate, with the area of today’s Britain shifting from sunny savannah to Ice Age tundra. Successive waves of human species arrived in Britain over that time, including Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens – us! Although their presence in the landscape is no longer visible, evidence for the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers has been discovered by archaeologists, namely in the form of stone tools. Many of these, which have been found in and around Greater London, are now on display in the Museum of London. These ancient ancestors lived alongside various megafauna, from hippos to mammoths, the remains of which have also been found in the region and today are displayed both at the Museum of London and the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.

By the start of the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period, around 11,000 years ago, homo sapiens were the only human species remaining in Britain. Global temperatures had heated up, with lush forests replacing the Ice Age tundra. Flint tools created in this period have been found in various parts of London, including at Uxbridge and on Hampstead Heath and are again displayed at the Museum of London. It is also with the Mesolithic period that we begin to see evidence of human structures appearing in Greater London. In 2010, archaeologists discovered timber piles suggesting a structure jutting into the River Thames at Vauxhall, which was determined to be of Mesolithic date.

In southern Britain, the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, began around 4000 BCE. By this point global sea levels had risen and Britain was now an island. The Neolithic was characterised by the introduction of agriculture, with communities giving up older hunter-gatherer lifestyles in favour of pastoralism, herding cattle through the landscape. The period also saw an increase in the number of substantial monuments, built in stone, timber, and earth, across Britain, including the long barrows and later the stone circles. Although none of these Neolithic features remain visible in today’s London landscape, we do know that they were once there: archaeologists have for instance discovered a large earthen cursus running beneath Heathrow Airport. Moreover, London offers a good base from which visitors can embark on day trips to see Neolithic and Bronze Age sites elsewhere in Southern England, such as Kent’s Medway Megaliths or Wiltshire’s famous Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age began around 2,500 BCE and continued until 800 BCE. As its name suggests, its distinguishing feature was the development of metalworking, especially bronze. Many of the beautiful items made by Bronze Age smiths have survived to this day – some have been recovered from the River Thames, with many archaeologists believing that they were placed there deliberately, perhaps shedding light on the religious beliefs of Bronze Age Londoners. Many severed heads dating from this period have also been found in the river, again possibly revealing something about the world-view of the period. Bronze Age Britons lived increasingly sedentary lifestyles, growing crops and dividing up the land in ways that suggest emerging ideas of territorial ownership. The Bronze Age also saw a move toward burying members of the dead in round mounds. A few of these still survive in South East London: one can be found near Abbey Wood, another on Winn’s Common in Plumstead, and a third example, the Shrewsbury Barrow, is sandwiched between houses on Shooter’s Hill.

Iron Age

By 800 BCE, people in southern Britain were beginning to work with iron, allowing archaeologists to start speaking about the Iron Age. Across Britain during the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, communities increasingly built defensive earthwork enclosures on high points in the landscape, which archaeologists call hillforts. This suggests an increasingly militarised society in which communities perceived themselves as being under threat from one another. A few of these hillforts survive in London – one can be found at Wimbledon, although is now largely converted into a golf course. Two more, Ambresbury Banks and Loughton Camp, are in Epping Forest along the London/Essex border.

Although the Iron Age people of southern Britain were not literate, Roman writers from the continent had begun to write accounts about them from which he can gain a better understanding of their culture and social organisation. We are aware, for example, that they spoke languages which we now refer to as part of the Celtic language family and which were related to modern Welsh. Iron Age London also continued to see the deposition of valuable items into the River Thames, possibly as a votive act. Many were part of the ‘La Tène’ art style, demonstrating clear links with other communities in mainland Europe. Some of these beautiful items, which include the Battersea Shield and Waterloo Helmet, are displayed at the Museum of London and the British Museum.

Read: Prehistoric Sites in London: From Woolly Mammoths to Caesar’s Camp

Romano-British

Inside the Bloomberg Mithraeum experience, London.

An experiencing recreating the Roman Mithraeum at the European Headquarters of Bloomberg in London.

Roman Britain 43–410 AD

The Roman military general Julius Caesar arrived in Britain in 55 BCE, although it would only be under a second invasion, spearheaded by the Emperor Claudius in 43 CE, that parts of the island were formally brought under Roman imperial control. Most of southern and central Britain would remain part of the Empire for the next four centuries. During that time a hybridised ‘Romano-British’ society developed, one influenced both by indigenous lifestyles and imported Roman ideas, with native populations being joined by migrants from across the Empire.

It was under Roman imperial rule that the city of Londinium was established on the north bank of the River Thames. It is this city which not only largely demarcates the area of the modern City of London but also gives its name to the entirety of Greater London. In the year 60 or 61 the settlement was destroyed by an attack from the Iceni, an East Anglian group led by Boudicca – a 19th century statue of this warrior queen now stands in Westminster. Londinium was subsequently rebuilt and had a defensive stone wall erected around it in the late 2nd or early 3rd century CE. Parts of this wall still survive around the City. Beneath the city streets lie further evidence of Londinium life. At the Guildhall, for instance, are the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, while further south stand the remnants of the Billingsgate Roman Bathhouse.

For most of its history, Romano-British society was polytheistic, accepting the presence of many different deities. This allowed for a coming together of both indigenous Iron Age religious systems and imported gods and traditions from across the Empire. One imported religious tradition was the cult of Mithras, which proved popular among the military. In the City of London, visitors can still explore an underground Mithraeum, or temple of Mithras, that archaeologists discovered during the 1950s. Many of the finds from the site are displayed in the Museum of London.

Romano-British society was heavily stratified, with a significant proportion of the population being enslaved. Indeed, Britain was known for being a source of slaves within the Empire. The quality of life for Roman Britons thus varied dramatically, with wealthier members of society living in villas. One example of such a structure is open within Greater London, that at Crofton Roman Villa in Orpington, although a more impressive example can be found only a short journey out of the city, at Lullingstone Roman Villa in Eynesford, Kent. The latter is particularly noteworthy for providing some of the earliest evidence for Christianity in Britain. Although Christianity became the official religion of the Empire in the 4th century, it is unclear precisely how deeply rooted it became in southern Britain.

Medieval

The 'White Tower' of the Tower of London.

The ‘White Tower’ of the Tower of London, described by historians as “the most complete eleventh-century palace in Europe”.

Early Medieval 410–1066

By the early 5th century, the Roman Empire was in disarray and its military was withdrawn from Britain. There is still much about this period we do not understand. It has often been occluded by later legends about invading Germanic warriors such as Hengest and Horsa and British warrior-kings like King Arthur. Central administration broke down and southern Britain reverted to being a series of smaller kingdoms. Possible evidence for the defences erected between these competing communities can be found at the Faesten Dic, a linear earthwork in Joyden’s Wood on the London/Kent border. Other evidence for early medieval activity in Greater London included a series of burial mounds, probably erected in the 7th century, in Greenwich Park.

Londinium appears to seen gradual disuse over the course of the 5th century and after. Instead, early medieval settlement focused on an area to the west, which became known as Lundenwic. The people of Lundenwic spoke Old English, a Germanic language that had entered Britain through contacts and migrations across the North Sea. Many place-names in and around Greater London stem from this early medieval language, which provided the basis for today’s Modern English. As well as witnessing the creation of the English language, the early medieval period saw the establishment of England as a unified country. The idea of a unified English people was used by Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (a kingdom covering much of southern Britain) in the late 9th century to rally support for his conflict with Scandinavian settler kings in the north. It was under his grandson, Æthelstan, that the dream of a unified English state became a reality, during the early 10th century.

The people of early medieval England, which is also known as Anglo-Saxon England, favoured timber as a building material and thus little survives of their built environment. Nevertheless, many street and place names – such as the Strand – originate from this period, demonstrating the significant early medieval impact on London’s landscape. Where stone was used was in building churches, Christianity having been re-introduced to southern Britain through the Gregorian Mission of Saint Augustine in 597. While no churches in Greater London survive in their complete early medieval form, some still reveal their early medieval origins to visitors who know what they are looking for. All Hallows-by-the-Tower, a church in the City of London, for instance, contains an archway of early medieval date. However, perhaps the best known early medieval church building in London is Westminster Abbey. Although the present structure owes a great deal to subsequent additions and rebuilding projects in the Late Middle Ages and after, the abbey’s origins are early 11th century, when construction began under the reign of King Edward the Confessor.

Norman 1066–1154

After Edward the Confessor died in 1066, William of Normandy invaded England, claiming to be his rightful heir. After killing his main rival, Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex, William marched on London and installed himself as the new king. Thus began the Norman period, which in historical terms is seen as the start of the central Middle Ages. Many English were unhappy with this state of affairs, leading William to build castles throughout his kingdom to secure Norman dominance. It was under William’s reign that construction began at the Tower of London. This fortification would play an important role as a palace, fort, and prison for many subsequent centuries and remains an iconic London landmark.

Plantagenet 1154 – 1485

Henry II ascended to the throne in 1154, marking the start of the Plantagenet dynasty. During the 12th century, Westminster increasingly became a hub of royal governance in England – the reason it is still home to the Houses of Parliament. Although most of the medieval features were destroyed in a 19th century fire, one prominent survival is the Jewel Tower, built in the 14th century as part of the larger Palace of Westminster to store the monarch’s treasured possessions. Evidence for the life of the powerful elite can also be found at various other locations in Greater London. Eltham Palace for instance contains a Medieval grand hall, while Fulham Palace was the residence of the Bishops of London from the 11th century. The remains of Winchester Palace, a 12th century townhouse of the Bishops of Winchester, can be freely perused in Southwark. The latter is just a short walk from the Clink Prison Museum, marking a prison that operated from the 12th century right through to the 18th.

The central and late Middle Ages also saw the growth of monasteries as prominent landowners across England, a position they held until the 16th century. The ruins of several of these Medieval monasteries can be found in Greater London, including Barking Abbey and Lesnes Abbey. Some other examples, such as Bermondsey Abbey, are now marked only with information plaques. Sometimes these monastic establishments survived as parish churches or manor houses. St Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate in the City of London for instance was initially a Benedictine nunnery, while the Charterhouse in Clerkenwell started life as a 14th century priory. Not far from the latter, St John’s Gate marks the former London headquarters of the Knights of the Order of St John and now houses a museum devoted to the Order and to the more recent charitable organisation which retains their name.

Trade was also an important facet late medieval London. The Hanseatic League established a base in the city at Steelyard, something now marked with a plaque. The Guildhall in the City of London survives in large part from the 15th century, after which it was often used as a town hall. It remains the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London, indicating how significant the legacy of the late medieval period has been for the city.

Early Modern

The Clock Tower at Hampton Court Palace from the Base Court.

Looking at the Tudor Clock Tower from within the Base Court at Hampton Court Palace.

Tudor 1485–1603

The Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 marked a turning point in English history. It is often seen as the end of the Middle Ages and the start of the early modern period. It ended the War of the Roses, a civil war over control of the English throne and led to Henry VII becoming king. He was part of what later became known as the Tudor family, establishing a dynasty that would rule England and Wales for over a century, giving us some of its most famous rulers.

Henry VII’s son and heir was Henry VIII, the most famous king in English history. One of his residences was the palatial Hampton Court, now on the edges of South West London. Henry was a keen hunter and one of the structures he used for this purpose was Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Chingford, on the border of Epping Forest. Epping still gives visitors a feel for the rural character that would have predominated across the area encompassed by today’s Greater London during the early modern period. The region would largely have consisted of villages separated by farmland, as well as various grand houses where the wealthy resided: surviving examples include Syon House in Brentford, Hall Place in Bexley, Sutton House in Hackney, and Eastbury Manor House in Barking.

The 16th century saw the Protestant Reformation sweeping Europe, its adherents arguing that Christianity had been perverted by the Roman Catholic Church and required purification. Henry VIII saw the Reformation as an opportunity to advance his own interests, including ensuring a divorce from his first wife after she failed to produce a male heir. In 1534 he separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and placed it under his own jurisdiction, rather than that of the Pope in Rome. As part of this, England’s powerful monasteries were dissolved and their lands and assets seized by Henry. The ensuing struggles between Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and a range of Protestant sects would have deadly repercussions for England over the next few centuries.

In 1558, Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I assumed the throne. Elizabeth’s reign, known as the ‘Elizabethan’ period, is often imagined as a golden age for England. It was an important period for exploration, with the English establishing settlements on the eastern coast of North America. One of the period’s most celebrated explorers, Francis Drake, sailed the globe aboard the Golden Hind – a replica of the ship is now docked on London’s South Bank. In London, Elizabeth’s reign saw many significant developments in theatre, with writers such as Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare being active in the city. The Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed, operated in Southwark from 1599. Although it burned down in 1613, a replica now stands near the original site and continues to house performances of plays by the Bard.

Stuart 1603–1714

Elizabeth died childless in 1603, with the English crown passing to her cousin, James Stuart, King of Scotland. This marked the start of the process by which the two nations would merge into a single, United Kingdom in 1707. James I was succeeded by Charles I, a man whose autocratic tendencies angered the increasingly assertive parliament, the latter receiving strong support from Londoners. Tensions were further inflamed by the sectarian divisions of the period. The ensuing civil war between royalists and parliamentarians of 1642 and 1651 caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Charles I was among them, being executed outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall in 1649.

The war was followed by the regime of self-styled ‘Lord Protector’ Oliver Cromwell. Influenced by his devout Puritanism, Cromwell’s administration was culturally repressive – it famously banned the celebration of Christmas – and after he died the Stuart monarchy was restored, with Charles II becoming king. A controversial statue to Cromwell nevertheless continues to stand outside the Houses of Parliament. Only six years after Charles II was crowned, the Great Fire of London swept through the City in 1666, wiping out most of its old timber architecture. A stone memorial to the fire, known as the Monument, was erected in the 1670s. The fire gave 17th century architects the chance to rebuild many of the buildings that had been lost. Thus, many of the churches found in the city date largely from this period, the most famous being St Paul’s Cathedral, which in its current form was designed by the famous architect Christopher Wren.

Another prominent building erected in the reign of Charles II is the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, which now marks the internationally recognised meridian line. Charles was succeeded by his brother James II, whose Catholic sympathies led to his ouster in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, an event which definitively established the primacy of parliament over the crown. James was succeeded by the joint reign of William III and Mary II. They employed Wren to create them a new home, Kensington Palace, which retains its links to the British royal family to this day. Mary’s death led to the succession of her sister, Anne, the last monarch in the Stuart dynasty. Several other country houses from the 17th century survive around London, including both Kenwood House and Fenton House in Hampstead and Ham House in Richmond.

Modern

The UNESCO listed Greenwich Park, London.

Overlooking Greenwich Park, with Queen’s House in the foreground and London’s Canary Wharf in the background.

Georgian 1714–1837

After Anne’s death, the British Parliament welcomed a Hanoverian prince, George, to become king in 1714. This resulted in a succession of four monarchs all called George – unsurprisingly, the period is called Georgian. Britain weathered many tumultuous events during this era, from successive Jacobite Rebellions through to the American Revolutionary War of 1777–1783. The French Revolution of 1789 sparked fears of political radicalism in Britain and led to the Napoleonic Wars in which Britain ultimately defeated Napoleon’s French Empire. Celebrating its victory, the British government established various commemorative monuments, including Trafalgar Square and the Wellington Arch, which can be visited today.

Britain’s growing commercial activities abroad included its prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade. The financial rewards of this grim trade flooded back into Britain, financing the creation of beautiful homes for the wealthy, such as Danson House in Bexleyheath. Abolitionist sentiment led to the end of Britain’s involvement in the trade in the opening decades of the 19th century. A stone memorial bench to abolitionist William Wilberforce can be found near Keston, while the later Buxton Memorial Fountain in Westminster also commemorates the abolitionist cause.

Increasing knowledge of the world helped spur on the creation of London’s earliest museums. The present premises of both the British Museum and the National Gallery were built in the mid-19th century, while Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn opened in 1837. London was also a hub for the arts and culture. Many famous cultural figures of Georgian England lived in the area of today’s Greater London and have houses now open to the public, including that of famous satirical artist William Hogarth in Chiswick, the poet John Keats in Hampstead, and the lexicographer Samuel Johnson in Holborn.

Other prominent houses have been preserved not through their association with famous personages but rather through their importance as testaments to the opulence of the 18th century rich. Marble Hill House in Twickenham, Osterley House in Isleworth, and Chiswick House in Chiswick are all good examples of this. Many of these reflected the Palladian designs popular in the period, although Horace Walpole’s eccentric house at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham foreshadows the rise of the Gothic Revivalist architecture that would dominate the Victorian era.

Victorian 1837–1901

In 1837, Victoria became queen. In the Victorian period, Britain emerged as the foremost world power, ruling over an Empire on which, it was famously said, the sun never set. In this context, London was a major hub for international trade, something which helped the city grow even richer. One reminder of the international trade links of this period is the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper now docked in Greenwich that regularly sailed from Britain to Asia during the mid-19th century. The vessel is only a short walk from the Royal Naval College, also established in the Victorian era, and the National Maritime Museum, all part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site.

International links also brought growing migration. London became home to large numbers of Irish, German, and Ashkenazi Jewish migrants, varying fleeing famine, civil unrest, and pogroms in their homelands. The latter community settled largely in the East End, although their story is now best explored in Camden, home to the London Jewish Museum.

London in the 19th century saw significant architectural projects, often very deliberately harking back to the styles of the Middle Ages, which for many Victorians was an imagined golden age. After the Palace of Westminster, which is the meeting place of the Houses of Parliament, burned down in 1834, it was replaced by a Gothic Revivalist structure replete with the famous Big Ben clock. Another medievalist structure that became an iconic London landmark is Tower Bridge, completed in 1894. Many of the city’s churches underwent significant alteration during this era, while after centuries of persecution, the city’s Roman Catholics became sufficiently influential that the new Westminster Cathedral could open in 1903.

Other major Victorian projects were more functional, including the city’s sewer system. Among the grand structures which helped manage this marvel of Victorian engineering were the Crossness Pumping Station near Thamesmead and the Markfield Beam Engine in Tottenham. The Victorian period also saw the opening of many of the city’s great museums and art galleries, including the Natural History Museum, Tate Britain, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the erection of the famous model dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. It also witnessed the construction of several hospitals and the transformation of medical science, in part thanks to the contribution of Florence Nightingale, the nurse whose important work is explored at the Florence Nightingale Museum.

Read: History Museums in London Free to Enter

The 19th century saw heavy urbanisation and today, rows of 19th century terraced houses are a common site throughout the city. Growing urbanisation brought overcrowding not just among the living but also among the dead. With London’s churchyards running out of space, the ‘Magnificent Seven,’ a series of commercial cemeteries, opened around the city’s suburban limits. By far the best known is Highgate Cemetery, opened in 1839. Perhaps its most famous resident is Karl Marx, the German émigré whose theories about socialism would have a major impact throughout the 20th century.

While there was much wealth in Victorian London, there were also areas of extreme deprivation. Most infamous in this regard was the city’s East End. It was here, in Whitechapel, that several women were murdered in the 1880s – the press attributed these killings to ‘Jack the Ripper,’ a man whose true identity was never satisfactorily revealed. Today, visitors can follow tours of the Ripper murder sites and visit the Jack the Ripper Museum. The best-known chronicler of poverty in Victorian London was Charles Dickens, a writer whom visitors can learn more about at the Charles Dickens Museum in Holborn. Another of those whose writings about Victorian London remain popular today was Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Holmes famously lived in Baker Street, now home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Many prominent Victorians tried to escape the pollution of the city by moving into rural areas outside of it – often areas that have since been integrated into Greater London. The poet and designer William Morris, for instance, built his idyllic Arts and Crafts home, the Red House, on land now part of Bexleyheath. Similarly, the biologist Charles Darwin wrote his seminal book, On the Origin of Species, while living at Down House in Downe. Also reflecting the rural character of much of 19th century Greater London are the various windmills that can still be found across the city in locations such as Shirley, Wimbledon, Upminster, and Brixton.

20th Century

Battle of Britain memorial on Victoria Embankment, London.

The 2005 memorial commemorating those who fought in the Battle of Britain, on Victoria Embankment of the Thames River.

Edwardian to World War II 1901–1945

Queen Victoria died in 1901, to be succeeded by her son Edward VII and the subsequent Edwardian period. Britain was still ruler of a vast international empire with London at its beating heart. Imperial rivalries were nevertheless bubbling up across Europe and in 1914 the First World War broke out. The war marked the first time that London was attacked from the air as German zeppelins dropped bombs upon its residents – a plaque marks one such attack in Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell.

Thousands of young Londoners were shipped off to fight along the Western Front in Belgium and France, many never to return. More about their story can be discovered at London museums such as the National Army Museum in Chelsea and the Imperial War Museum in Southwark, the latter founded to commemorate the empire’s war dead. Hundreds of war memorials commemorating those slain can be found across London, reflecting the sheer scale of the nation’s losses, although the most famous is the Cenotaph in Whitehall, a sombre monolith designed by the famous architect Edward Lutyens.

Although the war ended in 1918, social upheaval remained a major facet of London life in the interwar period. The Suffragettes spearheaded the first-wave feminist movement to secure women’s rights to vote, granted in limited form in 1918. The Irish nationalist movement gained pace, resulting in the bloody war of independence and partition of the island. The Great Depression of the 1930s left vast swathes of the population unemployed, a plight represented by the Jarrow March to London in 1936. Political radicalisation produced growing communist and fascist movements – at the Battle of Cable Street in the East End, left-wing protesters clashed with marchers from the British Union of Fascists in 1936. A plaque continues to mark the spot of this famous confrontation.

These radical ideologies proved more successful in continental Europe, with the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy sparking the Second World War in 1939. As the seat of Britain’s imperial government, London played a major role in the conflict. It was here that Prime Minister Winston Churchill made many of the momentous decisions which would help to ensure victory for the Allied forces. The Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall preserve the secret bunker where many of these plans were made. Many Londoners signed up to fight the Axis forces, including as part of the Royal Navy. One of the warships used in the conflict, the HMS Belfast, is now docked on the River Thames near London Bridge and open to visitors.

In 1940, the skies in and around London saw clashes between the German Luftwaffe and the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) – the Battle of Britain. Today, visitors can learn more about this momentous conflict at the Battle of Britain Bunker, located on the RAF Uxbridge base in West London, or the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum, just outside South East London in rural Kent. Unable to defeat the RAF, the Luftwaffe resorted to a bombing campaign known as the Blitz. Almost 30,000 Londoners were killed in the Blitz, and many areas of the city were decimated. Bomb craters can still be seen as scars of the conflict in many of the woods and parks around Greater London.

Read: Visiting World War II Sites in England & London

Post-War London 1945–present

The post-war period saw momentous changes for London and Britain as a whole. Following Ireland’s example, a succession of colonised countries demanded independence, with the Empire effectively gone by the late 1960s. In turn, economic migrants from former colonies began entering Britain in larger numbers, with London becoming home to established communities from the Caribbean and South Asia, something that can be further explored at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. Economic growth allowed youth culture to become increasingly distinct in the mid-20th century, with Carnaby Street the centre of ‘Swinging London’.

New institutions devoted to arts and culture, such as the Southbank Centre, the Barbican Centre, and Tate Modern, popped up around the city. New, modernist styles of architecture such as brutalism were used to replace decaying Victorian slums – examples such as the architect Ernő Goldfinger’s home at 2 Willow Road, Hampstead are now open as heritage attractions. Administrative changes led to the annexation of many surrounding boroughs and the formation of the new ‘Greater London’ urban area in 1965.

The Thatcherite reforms of the 1980s helped cement London as one of the world’s major financial centres while the Blairite reforms of the 1990s and 2000s gave the city its own elected mayoral system and underscored its multi-cultural character through relaxed immigration restrictions. Today, over a third of London’s residents were born outside Britain. New architectural creations, such as the Millennium Dome, the London Eye, and more recently the Shard, have become famous landmarks, while many parts of London have been transformed through high-rise construction. In 2012, London played host to the Olympic Games, resulting in the creation of the Olympic Park in East London. One of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, London remains an ever-changing place, one that always has one foot firmly in the future – and another firmly in the past.

Four Self Guided Tours of London

The Tower of London on the banks of the Thames River, London.

3 Days
Royal London

London Symphony Orchestra playing at the Barbican Centre in London.

2 Days
Classical Music

Memorial to the Women that fell in World War II in Whitehall, London.

1 Day
Military History

British Houses of Parliament at night.

1 Day
Political History

About The Author

This history of London, focusing on the most significant sites and museums in he capital city, was written by Ethan Doyle White. Besides being a born-and-bred Londoner, Ethan has a PhD in Medieval archaeology. On this page there are a number of links to site-specific articles on our website written by Ethan and others, including Sarah, Kate and Thomas. Read More About Us and Our Backgrounds.

error: Content is protected !!